How to Stop Your Dog from Digging Up Your Yard
Deep down inside, dogs want to be cats. That must be the only explanation as to why a dog would go around ruining your beautiful green lawns and in some cases, the vegetables you started growing for the summer. Oh, the horror! Even if there was nothing growing there, it’s never pretty to see holes all over the place. But before you decide to confine your dog to the crate whenever you aren’t home, we have to figure this out: why do dogs like digging? Once we answer that, we’ll delve into how to stop your dog digging under fence.
You’ve probably spoken to a few friends, but chances are very few dog owners know what you mean. Not all dogs take to digging, but those that do might as well be JCB trucks! True, nature has to do with a lot of it, but with the right nurturing, you can correct this bad habit and restore your lawn to its hay day.
Why Do Dogs Dig?
Besides being a fancy alliteration, dogs dig digging for many reasons, and each one has its own solution. There are ways to decipher which category your dog falls under. In all likelihood, your dog will fall under one of the following:
1. Burying Treats and Toys For Later
One of the common reasons for digging is to bury food and toys for later. Some canines exhibit traits similar to their ancestors in the wild. Dogs have to bury their excess meals to be eaten at a time when there is scarcity. Food in the wild isn’t always available, so your city dog thinks the same is happening right now.
While many of us can learn a lot from this habit (this is a primitive form of savings), it should not be encouraged. The food could go bad and make your dog really ill. Your dog could also forget the food there and it can attract rodents.
2. How to Curb The Habit
When dogs have an abundance of stuff, they might choose to bury the excesses until later. If you give your dog food and he carries it away instead of eating it immediately, follow him to see what he does with it. If he is burying it, then it means you have given him too much. Watch his portions henceforth, so that he has no extra to bury.
If your dog is burying toys then don’t give him any more toys… kidding! Leaving out too many toys at once could encourage him to hide the extras. Alternatively, you can teach your dog to only play with toys indoors, by emphasizing the ‘leave it’ command whenever you see him trying to take the toys outside and reward him with a treat, to be eaten on the spot.
Having a designated digging spot in your garden is another option if you don’t want to interrupt your dog’s natural digging instinct. More on this later.
3. Dog Digging Under Fence For Entertainment
When I was a little kid, I used to enjoy digging up the yard and discovering fun things. I used to pretend to look for buried treasure until my mum threatened to use my school fees to fix the lawn. Digging is fun and some dogs know this! They burrow looking for prey, roots or in the case of Terriers and other dogs bred for digging, they may do it just because they can. In some cases, your dog thinks it is being helpful. If it sees you gardening, it might decide to lend a helping paw.
Boredom, playfulness, and hyperactivity are other reasons why your dog might take up digging. If your dog is spending a lot of time in the yard by itself, it could decide to amuse itself this way.
4. What’s The Solution?
Dogs will always need an outlet for their energy and inquisitiveness. If you don’t find one for them, they’ll do that all by themselves. Make sure your dog is getting enough exercise, so he doesn’t have any excess energy. If you are not going to be home, provide toys for your pup to play with. Find toys that will stimulate your dog mentally and when he needs a break, have Kong toys, or other treat-filled alternatives to keep him entertained and nourished.
5. Digging For The Hunt
This is the one my dog put me through. Dogs fancy themselves as predators. Even though they are now spoilt pups, they still have that hunter instinct. My dog would chase down lizards, cockroaches, and any other thing he saw running around the yard. If they went into a hole, he would dig it up.
If you are lucky enough to have moles, rabbits, or other subterranean dwellers in your yard, they could be what your dog is going after. Unless you catch him in the act, you might not know that’s what he’s up to. There are some signs to look for though. If the digging follows a path, or in the same area as around trees or the fence, that could be a sign your dog has sniffed out its prey.
6. Put An End To The Hunt
When there is nothing to hunt, the digging will end. Find out if you do have burrowing animals and if possible, fence them out. Avoid using pesticides or other poisons to try to kill them, because your dog might end up ingesting it.
An alternative is to desensitize your dog to smaller animals. Socialize your dog with bunnies and hamsters, so he knows they are not food and are friendly. Even if you go with this option, you might still go ahead and get the burrowers out.
7. Digging For Temperature Control
When the summer heat starts getting intense, your dog would need a cool place to chill. If he doesn’t find his outdoor shelter cool enough, he would dig up the soil beneath a tree and lie there in the cool sand. The same is also true when it gets cold. The soil can be used to provide a partial covering from wind and rain. In some extreme cases, your dog could be looking for water to drink.
How to Stop Your Dog from Digging Up Your Yard
The solution for this is rather simple: provide a conducive place for your puppy to rest outdoors. Because dogs can handle a lot of harsh conditions in their stride, we don’t always know immediately when they are uncomfortable. Make sure your dog has enough shade and water in the summer when he has to be outdoors, and enough warmth during winter. As owners who love their dogs, we know that our dog’s welfare is paramount and we must do whatever we can to ensure they get the best treatment at all times.
Attention Seeking Digging
Dogs, just like nearly every other creature on earth, yearning for attention. It doesn’t even matter if it is the attention of praise, or the attention from being scolded, just as long as you are within lickable distance. If your dog feels lonely and it discovers along the way that the only time you speak (even though you’re yelling) to it is when it digs up the yard, then that’s what he’s going to keep doing.
What’s The Solution?
Your dog is a member of the family. Spending time with your dog, playing with him and making sure he gets enough exercise is enough to eradicate most problematic behaviors. Shouting, hitting or other forms of punishment rarely work, all they do is cause a different problem. This is why we strongly advocate positive reinforcement.
Indulging The Habit
As another option on how to stop your dog digging under fence, you can get a sandbox. You can then play fun games with your dog, like burying toys in there, but not food items, for the reasons listed previously. Make sure you praise him when he finds the toys and gives him a treat, or whatever he enjoys. As you run this drill with your dog, introduce the word ‘dig’ to him, so he knows that is where he can destroy at will. Ensure that the sandbox or designated digging area is safe and filled with loose soil.
To dissuade your dog from digging up the other areas, you can cover it with stones, chicken wire, or plants with repellent odors.
Should I Be Worried?
If your dog is digging for any of the above reasons, there is no real cause for concern. If your dog is digging so he can escape, then that is a more severe issue that would need to be investigated properly, with the help of a dog trainer. Dogs with separation anxiety might try to dig their way out of the house, so they can meet up with you on your way to work. If the dog is trying to escape for any other reason, that could be determined by a certified animal behaviorist. But before you get worried over nothing, try the above fixes first.
Whether you choose to help your dog overcome the habit or provide a sandbox, as long as you do it positively, your dog will be just as happy. So go on, you can do it!
[Related, check out the Best Dog Beds and Houses]
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